After he debunked the myth of white players not being tough during the episode of The Big Podcast, Shaquille O’Neal singled out the Hall of Famer Dino Rađa as the “toughest white guy” he went up against.
Shaq faced Rađa in 12 regular-season games and one playoff series. He ended up on the winning side 10 times – 7 in the regular season, 3 in the Playoffs – and even put up better individual numbers than a Croat who only spent four years in the NBA. But it was far from a pure dominance Shaq displayed against almost every NBA big man at the time.
Shaq averaged 30.3 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 3.1 APG on .627 shooting from the floor in regular-season games the two played against each other. Dino averaged 21.8 PPG, 8 RPG, and 1.8 APG .541 from the field. One time Rađa made the postseason with the Celtics, he put up 15/7/2.3 against Shaq’s Orlando Magic, but O’Neal’s 22.5 points and 13.5 proved to be the difference-maker as he led his team to the second round of the ’95 NBA Playoffs.
However, their head to head matchups during the 94/95 regular season paint the perfect picture of why Dino Rađa was ‘the toughest white guy’ Shaq went up against. In five games the two played against one another, Rađa averaged 27.2 points and 9 rebounds on .566 shooting from the field.
He couldn’t stop me. My third year, we had like five games against them and I averaged like 27 against Orlando. He definitely remembers that.Dino Rađa, 1-ON-1 with Basketball Network
Rađa figured out he could never match Shaq’s strength and raw power, so he utilized his quickness and basketball IQ against the much bigger O’Neal. Dino made their matchup about skills, instead of letting Shaq use his physical dominance to the best of his ability.
Thus Rađa became O’Neal’s toughest white guy matchup — an accomplishment a Hall of Fame Croat is most proud of from his 4-year run in the NBA.